Baseball games still take too long. Blame the Red Sox.


David Ortiz and the Red Sox aren’t helping games to move quickly. (Winslow Townson / AP)

It’s a rite of spring. Baseball arrives and everyone notices that baseball games are getting longer and longer.

Carl Bialik at Nate Silver’s Fivethirtyeight.com site crunched the numbers and, sure enough, the trend is continuing.


(Courtesy ESPN / 538)

The worst offenders? Bialik says it’s the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees — although the Bombers are speeding things up. From Bialik:

The slowest team in baseball is now — wait for it — the Boston Red Sox. New York’s archrivals have ranked in the top three in average game length each year since 2003. Last year, Boston’s fourth straight season as the slowest team in baseball, its average game took three hours and 15 minutes.

Boston is part of a broader trend that the Yankees are defying: Baseball games are getting longer. Games averaged two hours and 56 minutes in 2011 and three hours flat in 2012. They tacked on four more minutes last year — even as runs per game fell, to 4.17 from 4.32 the year before. And games this year, with the advent of instant replay, have added another three and a half minutes on average, through Sunday [April 13].

Part of it may be that the teams play so often on TV — and on national TV (so go ahead and blame ESPN). Maybe the new replay rules are to blame. Or maybe it’s as simple as the lengthening of the stuff that goes on between plays. And maybe the lengthy games correlates to empty early season ballparks. From Bialik:

Another influential factor has to do not with the action, but with the time in between plays. Pitchers stare down base runners or wave off signs from catchers. Batters step out of the box and adjust their helmets and other gear. The time between pitches is getting longer. We know because of a byproduct of the sophisticated PITCHf/x tracking system installed in every major league park that stamps a time on every pitch. FanGraphs turned those timestamps into a stat, called pace, measuring the time between two consecutive pitches in the same plate appearance.2

The pace is slowing. The average break between pitches was 21.6 seconds three years ago, 22.1 seconds two years ago and 22.6 seconds last year, according to FanGraphs. Taking into account the number of pitches per game, the slowing pace could account for five of the eight minutes tacked on to the average game between 2011 and 2013.

So, relax. Grab a beer. Or run a marathon. Watching a baseball game is going to take a while.

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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